Monday, December 12, 2011

The big puzzle

I was trying to think of what made me decide to be a scientist, and I just drew a blank. I do not ever remember having big ambitions; just a feeling that I could contribute to solving a piece of the puzzle. I always thought that life - the big picture - was a puzzle that could be solved a piece at a time as long as there were enough people willing to try.

In my opinion that is what scientists do: they figure things out, they learn about the unknown and make them known. For me it is not about the prizes or the recognition, but the small discoveries that help advance the process. The small triumphs of finding a piece that was not there before, or removing one that was placed wrong. 

Throughout the last fifteen years I have been one of the scientist working on this project. I have been contributing little pieces to different parts of the big puzzle; albeit enjoying the challenges much more than the frustrations.The actual pieces have been very diverse, but I am sure they will all fit together at some point. Maybe it will not be in my lifetime, but one day I am certain they will.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Not here, not there -- where?

It has been a busy year for everyone and, until we figure out how to be in more than one place at once, there will always be a place where we cannot be. As September arrived before I expected and my turn to host the Scientiae Carnival came up, my question was where has everyone not been?

Karina, of Ruminations of an Aspiring Ecologist, has been doing field work for over a year and is ready to not be there anymore. She is desperately trying to finish collecting data for her Ph.D. so she can go home to write her dissertation. She has special plans for the final stages of her Ph.D. and it includes having a kid. Another Ph.D. student, Rowena of PhD Journey: fire, kids, erosion, turned the final stage of her Ph.D. into a vacation by treating herself to a writing retreat.
Removing all extraneous workloads such as cleaning, cooking and kid wrangling frees the mind for flowing words and  thoughtful ideas.
If you are not convinced by this idea, check out her photos and I believe you will change your mind. Speaking of photos, Alyssa, of Apple Pie and The Universe, said she discovered that she has not been 22 for ten years and was surprised to realize she looks older than she feels.

Science Girl has been in a spinning wheel of work and family obligations and she feels that she is not fully anywhere -- with a toddler in tow. Another toddler mom, Melissa of Confused at a Higher Level, has a list of all the choices of where not to be she had to make this past month. She also has a great parody of Green Eggs and Ham; my favorite part is:
There is but only one of me,
I can’t do more, oh don’t you see.
I cannot be both here and there,
I simply can’t be everywhere.
Penny sent me a link to her friend's blog who suffers from an unknown medical condition, the name of which is just not there. The search for this elusive name has even directed her career choices and hobbies. Biochem Belle talks about juggling at work and having to put her hobbies, such as blogging, on a halt to focus on all the other things that are going on.
There are many days that I wish I had more time (or minions) so I could do more. With the amount of work I’m juggling, sometimes a ball drops—some experiment is postponed, the apartment isn’t cleaned as well as I’d like, my husband and I forfeit a day together…
Likewise, I have not been blogging over here very much, but for the opposite reason. In the past I have mostly posted here when I am stressed, but nowadays it has been hard to put the stress into words. Instead, I have been letting the other side of my brain express itself and distract me so I can focus on the everyday tasks instead of worrying about past, present and future. As experiments get more and more frustrating, most of my accomplishments are at my other blog. Some days I worry my hobbies are taking over my life, other days I think I am OK with that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thoughts on Change

Today I had a serving of philosophy for breakfast. My almost 5 year-old was asking me if Luke in Star Wars Episode IV is the same person as Luke in Episode VI. He thinks they are different because he changed. I had to agree, as I do not think I am the same person I was years ago... and somehow I see less change in the mirror than when I look beyond it. If I try to pinpoint when or why it happened I draw a blank. As far as I can tell marriage didn't change me, neither did motherhood, but at some point last year I noticed I was thinking different thoughts.

I remember having a conversation with Dada about five years ago, while he was struggling with his tenure track position, where he was pointing out to me that he had enough other interests that if he did not make it in science he could do other things in life. I clearly remember thinking that for me it would be impossible to conceive a different route. I could not even envision the "not making it" part. When last year it hit me that I had left academia, without realizing it, I was struck for the first time with ideas of an alternate path. I also realized last year that I had interests outside of science, and my hobbies started shaping my thoughts to different ventures.

I would not go so far as to say I am disheartened with science and I am looking for a way out. I still love research and putting pieces together to solve scientific puzzles. I just do not want to do it all the time anymore. What I noticed is that there is more to me than just science. I am striving to seek balance in my life and incorporate all these newly discovered parts of me into a harmonious whole.

Dada seems to think that this is just a "35-year-old crisis" and everyone goes through it. Maybe it is... maybe it will pass. Or maybe it is one of those checkpoints in life where you are supposed to reassess your priorities and direction in order to move on to the next phase of your life. However, even if the outcome is constant and there is no change in direction, there are no guarantees that the subtle changes acquired during this period will not have marking effects later on. Only time will tell...